AP: A U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday that Shiite-dominated Iran is providing support to some Sunni insurgents fighting American forces in Iraq. Associated Press
BAGHDAD (AP) – A U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday that Shiite-dominated Iran is providing support to some Sunni insurgents fighting American forces in Iraq.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the military had credible intelligence to support the allegation but did not elaborate. He said the support to Sunni insurgents was limited to select groups, which he did not identify.
“It’s not all Sunni insurgents but rather we do know that there is a direct awareness by Iranian intelligence officials that they are providing support to some select Sunni insurgent elements,” Caldwell told reporters.
On Sunday, a U.S. general also said powerful armor-penetrating roadside bombs believed to be of Iranian origin were turning up in the hands of Sunni insurgents south of Baghdad.
Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the Army’s Task Force Marne, said the presence of “explosively formed penetrators,” or EFPs, in Sunni weapons caches suggests some degree of Iranian influence among Sunni as well as Shiite extremists.
But Lynch, whose command covers the southern rim of Baghdad and mostly Shiite areas to the south, said it was unclear whether the Iranians were supplying the weapons directly or whether the Sunnis were buying them on the black market.
Caldwell said the weapons issue was still being investigated, but “we do know that they’re providing support in terms of financial support at this point.”
U.S. military officials have been saying for months that the Iranians were supplying EFPs to Shiite militias, despite strong denials by Tehran.
Some Sunni insurgent groups are strongly anti-Iranian, blaming the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government for helping Iran expand its influence here.
Caldwell also said that family members would be allowed to visit five Iranian detainees captured earlier this year in northern Iraq and the visit is likely to happen “very soon.” He said the International Committee of the Red Cross had been told of the decision and names of potential visitors were being considered.
The United States has accused the Iranians of having links to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard network that was supplying funds and weapons to insurgents in Iraq.
Iran denied they had any links to insurgents, saying the five men were diplomats who were engaged exclusively in consular work. The Iraqi government also has called for their release, saying the Iranians were involved in consular work.